Death 6 Nov 1678 in Newport, Newport Co., Rhode Island, USA
Boston, Lincolnshire, England
Was made a freeman; was required to pay five pounds for this.
William Coddington, born in 1601, and was no lover of King Charles I. He was a man of fortune and position. In his own words, he was "one of those Lincolnshire gentlemen, so called, that denied the royal loan, and suffered for it in the time of Charles I." This probably referred to the forced subsides of 1626 and on the 3/7/1627 he was on a list of Englishmen who had resisted making forced loans to the king.
The wealthy Coddington was well-regarded by Massachusetts’ governor, John Winthrop, and was elected as Winthrop’s assistant, as well as treasurer of the colony.
William was a colonial governor and religious dissident. He founded Newport, Rhode Island, in 1639. He migrated to New England in 1630 as an officer of the Massachusetts Bay Company. He had sailed from Southampton in the ship Arabella for Salem and thence to Boston, and was "Assistant," or Councellor to the Governor when John Winthrop was first made Governor of Massachusetts Bay in 1630.
In 1633 he was once of a committee to oversee the building of a bridge over Muddy River, and another bridge over Stony River. From the year 1634 he was treasurer. In 1635 he was appointed on the Military Committee.
He settled in Boston and served as the company treasurer and was a deputy in the colony legislature. In 1637 he supported the controversial antinomian religious beliefs of Anne Marbury Hutchinson, and he was forced to leave Massachusetts for the island of Aquidneck in Narragansett Bay.
Coddington fell out of the Puritans' favor by supporting Sir Henry Vane’s party and Anne Hutchinson’s teachings. Still, the Puritans handled him gently. He was not ordered to surrender his weapons, and before he departed for Rhode Island, Governor Winthrop asked him to stay.
Rhode Island’s first settler was Roger Williams. A quarrel with Puritans in Plymouth [once a separate colony, now part of Massachusetts] led to Williams’ heresy trial in October 1635, excommunication and banishment. Rather than be shipped back to England, Williams fled to the northern end of Narragansett Bay. There he bought land from the Narragansett Indians, and founded the town of Providence. A firm believer in freedom of worship, Williams welcomed other exiles, even when he did not agree with their beliefs. He also valued treating Indians fairly and negotiated peace treaties with them.
When Anne Hutchinson and her followers were tossed out by Massachusetts, Williams helped them buy Aquidneck. On March 24, 1637, Coddington and his friends received a deed from Cononicus and Miantunomi, Chief Sachems of Narragansett of the Island of Aquidneck, and for forty fathom of white beads. And they also gave to Miantonomi to give to the Indian inhabitants as a farther inducement - "to remove themselves off the Island before next winter" - "ten coats and twenty hoes." Aquidneck is Rhode Island, the Island, not the State.
There he established a government based on Old Testament precepts in a settlement at Pocasset (later Portsmouth, RI) on the northern part of Aquidneck. Anne Hutchinson had also settled in Portsmouth after she was banished from Massachusetts, but they had a dispute and Coddington moved his settlement to Newport in 1639.
Portsmouth’s citizens soon chafed under Coddington’s high-handed rule. In April 1639 Coddington went on a business trip to Boston. In a hasty election William Hutchinson, whom John Winthrop described as “a man of very mild temper and weak parts, and wholly guided by his wife,” was elected to be Judge. Coddington, Dyer and others moved to the south end of Aquidneck Island. Naturally, Coddington was elected to lead them at Newport.
Portsmouth and Newport were united the next year, with Coddington elected governor, but his hopes to maintain the island of Aquidneck as a separate colony failed when a patent was issued uniting the Providence plantations with Aquidneck.
Roles in early Rhode Island government
Coddington was the Judge of Portsmouth from 1638-1639. He was the Judge of Newport from 1630-40. He was the Governor of Rhode Island (united Portsmouth and Newport) from 1640-1647.
From 1643-1651 the towns of Providence Plantations were united with the towns of Rhode Island. Coddington opposed this union. In 1651 the area was divided in two again.
In 1647 Coddington's second wife died. In January 1649 Coddington married Anne Brinley. Together they had eight children, two of whom died in infancy.
From 1651-1653 William Coddington served as Governor and President of Portsmouth and Newport.
The four towns were reunited in 1654. In 1663 they became a Royal Colony, called Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.
Quakerism and later career
In 1665 Coddington having openly joined the Quakers attempted to bring about peace with the local government. But he continued to serve the Colony, was Deputy in 1666, Assistant, or Councilor to the Governor in 1666-67, and Governor in 1674-75-76 and 78. The Government at this time was chosen annually.
He (and later his widow) often hosted Quaker meetings in his home in Newport. George Fox himself visited this house in 1672.
Death, monuments, and legacy
Coddington died in office on November 1. He is buried in a small graveyard on Farewell Street in Newport. His grave is marked not only with the original, almost illegible marker, but a taller monument erected some years after his death.
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